Baltimore Evening Sun (31 January 1913): 6.
Baltimore is now passing through its usual midwinter plague of amateur theatricals, and the newspapers, according to their habit, are going into frenzies over the performers. On the first page of The Evening Sun the other day there was a five-column picture showing certain “prominent children”–I quote literally–who will appear shortly in some sort of home-made show. And day by day the Sunpaper, the Evening News, the Hot Towel and the Serviette give over columns to the rehearsals of the Paint and Powder Club. One day it takes a full column to impart the startling news that some eminent young man, the son of a Maryland family of almost Babylonish antiquity, has consented to appear in the “Florodora” sextet. Another day the town is staggered by the intelligence that two other young men, apparently of the highest distinction, have objected to appearing as girls. And every day there are pictures of gawky boys in corsets, of scared-looking flappers hideously garbed, of stout old ladies with powdered hair.
Is the general public interested in such banal clowning? Is it enough interested, more specifically, to justify all this waste of space and ink, all this fawning over nobodies, all this ludicrous boosting of harmless young men and social climbers? I doubt it. The general public does not go to amateur shows. They are patronized almost exclusively by friends and relatives of the participants, and. it is very seldom that those participants are important enough, in themselves, to justify more than a very modest newspaper notice. Even when, as in the case of “The World in Baltimore” and the big dance shows occasionally given at the Lyric, the bars are let down and the general population to drawn upon for coryphees, there is seldom any large response. “The World in Baltimore” lost money, and most of the other shows lose money. Even when expenses are paid, the profits going to the benefiting charities are commonly distressingly small. On this point, indeed, there have been public disputes and scandals in the past, and no doubt there will be others in future.
But why, then, do the newspapers devote such lavish space to these tedious affairs? Why do they treat the principal participants as if they were grand dukes and archangels? Simply, I venture to believe, because the newspapers of Baltimore are all incurable and shameless snobs. Their one dominant thirst is to revere, to worship, to grease--and having very few candidates of genuine distinction for their tallow, they spend a good part of their time manufacturing bogus candidates. Hence the Prominent Baltimorean. Hence the Mr. in front of the names of pothouse politicians. Hence the solemn reporting of second-rate dances, with long lists of costumes. Hence the Paint and Powder Club.
I know of no other city in civilization in which empty pretension is received so seriously as in Baltimore. In England, France and most other countries of Europe, the free advertising that is here lavished upon obscure and uninteresting folks must be paid for in cash. Even in New York and Chicago, where the doings of such folks are reported gratis and at great length, it is commonly with tongue in cheek. That is to say, they are treated as public comedians. The newspapers describe their cavortings humorously and the common people enjoy salubrious snickers. But in Baltimore they are treated as solemnly as ambassadors or archbishops.
But don’t think that I here argue against a proper respect for distinction, even for merely social distinction. Say what you will against him as a man, a duke remainss duke. He stands for a definite tradition, a definite position. He represents a very real human achievement, either his own or his grandfather’s. And his duchess is the wife of a duke, whatever her previous ribaldries upon the stage, and so it is an honor to kiss her hand. But here in Baltimore, the persons that the newspapers revere so doggishly can show very little genuine distinction. They are, in the main, somewhat tedious vacuums, of small attainments and very insecure position. To treat them tolerantly is to do a common act of mercy. But to treat them fawningly is to do something preposterous and degrading.
The Hon. the super-Mahon’s little plan to seduce the county papers into supporting him for the Senate by holding his bar’l under their noses seems to be working very badly. Not one of them, so far as I know, has submitted to the towelization. On the other hand, several of them are protesting loudly that they are not that sort of sheets, that their virtue is not for sale. Thus the Midland Journal of Rising Sun, Cecil county, goes to the length of daring the super-Mahon to try it again, and of denouncing his majority over the late Timanus as “fraudulent.” And the Laurel Democrat, insulted even more, refuses to print his letter, even at 10 cents a line, but instead offers him some sage advice. For example:
We would suggest to Candidate Preston that quoting the Democratic Telegram as a Democratic paper does not add moo strength to any movement needing Democratic votes, especially as it has been charged in the public press that Mr. Preston has served as a special advertising solicitor for that delectable sheet. Now, Mr. Preston, if you are to become a candidate for the United States Senate, get rid of your present and former political sponsors, and make your fight on your merits. * * * Mahon, Padgett et al. are not a strong combination with the county voters.
The Hon. Satan Anderson, not to miss the show, issues a solemn warning to the county editors in the current number of the American Issue. Many of them are not for local option, and so have much respect for his wisdom. He bids them beware of the super-Mahon’s bellowing about newspaper conspiracies against him, and then goes on:
The Mayor reminds us of a somewhat brtght but exceedingly forward child who gets a laugh for performing some prank and then rehearses steadily. He got elected once by dint of a great disturbance and the faithful ring judges of election, but to imagine that he can pull off the same kind of a stunt again after the people have got his measure indicates either that he lacks judgment or else that the people do.
So proceeds the hellish plot against that pure spirit, that holy man. So another republic prepares to be ungrateful.
The Hon. W. C. Williams in defense and explanation of Christian Science:
Christian Scientists * * * do not ridicule the earnest believers in these methods [i. e., experiment and research] nor belittle their endless effort to help mankind.
With all due respect to an esteemed friend, Pish! If the Hon. Mr. Williams will show me one issue of the Christian Science Sentinel in which the intelligent war upon disease is not ridiculed and belittled, at least by plain inference, I shall be very glad to eat it.